What "life skills" do you wish you had been taught before becoming an adult?
November 2, 2010 9:31 AM   Subscribe

What did you have to learn the hard way that you wish someone had just taught you about? Or what do you think adolescents should be taught, either in school or by their parents, that they aren't? An example would be basic personal finance (i.e., how not to get into bad debt). Another would be workplace & job interview etiquette.

There is a similar thread here, but I am asking about a younger audience, ages 13-19. Basically junior high / high school / early college age.
posted by crookedgrin to Education (115 answers total) 193 users marked this as a favorite
As an academic, I think that everyone should do at last a year of work before they go to university. In my experience it improves maturity, attitude to work, application and standards.
posted by biffa at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2010 [26 favorites]

That life isn't easy. Seriously. The "world" trains you at that age that college = great paying job. Does it? That good debt is a good thing. Is it if bad circumstances happen--good debt can turn into bad debt at any time and can be unavoidable (say foreclosure is going to happen and you're desperate to make a payment so you use your credit card, etc). Marriage + kids = happy life. Does it? What if you think you met your perfect person and all is well and behind your back they cheat or just walk up and leave?

I think we set up kids to think life is easy and 1+1 = 2 plain and simple. We don't teach them all the if/thens and we don't teach them how to gain the strength, confidence, and all resources there are available to overcome problems.
posted by stormpooper at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

That when you fall behind on credit card payments, the credit card companies RAISE your minimum payments.
posted by empath at 9:38 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd been taught more about how college works. This is perhaps only useful for kids whose parents didn't go to college, but I would really have liked to know how financial aid works, what it means to get a bad grade (that they're not going to kick you out for flunking a class, but if you get enough of them you're in trouble), and when to drop a class.
posted by hought20 at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

That you don't "deserve" the standard of living marketed towards your age group and shouldn't use credit to try to attain it. I am learning the hard way about credit card debt, student loans, etc. For example, I want a purse, but I don't have to buy a Gucci one just because all my friends have one or it's cool or whatever. Sounds like common sense but I don't think it is for the Gen Y'ers.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

The one small thing that I wish my parents had hammered into my head is that it's a lot easier to do five minutes of work on something once a day than to do two and a half hours of work on something once a month. And you'll likely get a hell of a lot more done on it the first way.
posted by Etrigan at 9:40 AM on November 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

That it's okay to fail sometimes. And life will go on when you do.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:41 AM on November 2, 2010 [19 favorites]

Bullying isn't stopped by walking away or ignoring it.
posted by anti social order at 9:41 AM on November 2, 2010 [27 favorites]

Decision making skills. They can be applied to the innumerable small and large decisions we make every day of our lives.
posted by ldthomps at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dammit, c'grin! I just posted an AskMe then you go and put this one up that's probably more interesting and going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. Sheesh.

I'd say, one life "skill" is really just the insight that timing is, if not everything, a large part of many things.

Other things: Many kids aren't taught analog skills anymore, like how to cook a couple of basic meals, or how to change oil in a car. These might not be essential life skills but they are useful, and they open people's thinking about how to gain and exercise these skills. Example: You might not know how to build a chicken coop, but if you've been taught how to use hand tools on a couple of other simple projects, you could figure the coop construction pretty readily. So: Hand tools, automobile maintenance, cooking, and how as a young child to politely hold a conversation with an adult.
posted by slab_lizard at 9:43 AM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

If you're working in an organization with less than a dozen people, your slacking off/half-assed job will be discovered. A corollary: everyone can tell if you showed up drunk or high.
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your landlord (co-op board, condo board, etc.) doesn't trust you.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:48 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

That other people's opinions are not something you have to fix.
posted by jet_silver at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

I wish my parents had stressed how important it was to be liked by everybody, especially in the workplace. I felt like I was taught the opposite, as in, "Just be yourself" and "it doesn't matter who likes you and doesn't like you, just study."
posted by anniecat at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Your coworkers are not your friends. You may be friendly with them and do things like you would with your friends (going out for drinks, etc.) but at the end of the day, if you stand between them and a higher standard of living, you're not winning that battle.
posted by griphus at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2010 [21 favorites]

Everyone should know what it's like to quit a job. Everyone should know what it's like to be laid off or fired.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

I think it's ridiculous that no one knows anything about finance/budgeting, but I think we've got that covered in this thread. Some other thoughts:
  • A college degree, even with a good gpa from a fancypants college, is not on its own enough to get you a decent job. Hence: most people do not get decent jobs right out of college. Even 5 years later most people are just barely starting their real careers.
  • Basic general life stuff -- running errands, getting groceries and making real food, keeping the house clean -- takes an incredible amount of time, and will eat up any spare time you have if you're not organized.
  • People are basically guaranteed to regularly get minor bouts of psychological problems -- mild depression, bad breakups, stress and anxiety. The important thing is to fix these things early and not let them fester into a crisis.
  • As you get into your late 20s, it's more and more likely that people close to your age will get various serious illnesses, and some of them will die. It's important to figure out how to deal with it without imploding.
  • Keeping in touch with friends and colleagues over the long haul takes a lot of disciplined effort. It's pretty easy to lose a good friend just by not seeing them for a couple of months, which turns into a year, which turns into forever.

posted by miyabo at 10:03 AM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

Constantly apologising and being self-effacing is only cute when it is Hugh Grant in a 90s Britcom. In real life, no one wants the task of constantly reassuring you that you're ok.
posted by Ziggy500 at 10:03 AM on November 2, 2010 [41 favorites]

How to break big projects into small achievable goals. Even stuff like "clean my house"
posted by rmd1023 at 10:04 AM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

You don't have to stay in a bad relationship because everyone acts like they like your boyfriend/girlfriend.
posted by Zophi at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

I think we set up kids to think life is easy and 1+1 = 2 plain and simple. We don't teach them all the if/thens and we don't teach them how to gain the strength, confidence, and all resources there are available to overcome problems.

Along those lines, and I don't know if you can really teach it, but from my experience growing up, through school and college, you're in an environment that is set up to help you. Even if you're a fuckup, you're gonna get a bunch of chances and some nudging in the right direction. That doesn't really happen with adults. People don't care about your issues. You might not get another chance. Things don't come to you if you don't go get them.
posted by ghharr at 10:08 AM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

that the human body has a limit regarding how many alcoholic beverages it can down.

(before they come back up.)

especially when said body belongs to a 110lb 16-year-old girl. I wish someone had actually given me specific numbers. like, 4. or even 5. because starting at 10 was a BAD BAD IDEA.
posted by changeling at 10:13 AM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

You don't always have to be right.

I am still trying to learn that one.
posted by wingless_angel at 10:13 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Just because you have to spend an extra 30 seconds waiting in the express lane, or waiting for two extra cars to merge, or for someone to go when the light turns green, it doesn't mean you have to get angry and be an asshole to your fellow human beings. Relax. You'll get there. It's all good. Be kind to people. You'll be happier at the end of the day.
posted by bondcliff at 10:13 AM on November 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

I am asking about a younger audience, ages 13-19. Basically junior high / high school / early college age.

For this particular age group: the things that make you a cool teenager don't necessarily make you a cool adult. In particular, many of the attitudes that teenagers find cool and perhaps even a necessary part of growing up (rebellion and contempt for authority, snarkiness, bullying and/or teasing, etc.) can really set you back once you enter the adult world.
posted by googly at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

also, that Yes Means Yes is a better date rape prevention slogan than No Means No.
posted by changeling at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Getting a dog is not as awesome as it may seem.
posted by davidvanb at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

That learning isn't about already being good; it's fun and gives me something to do with my time. Also, that learning how to learn comes first.

[Big school fail. There it was all about having done your homework according to specifications, acting observant and, in a blanket-kind-of-way "not being stupid." Since I'm not stupid, it took me a while to work that out.]
posted by Namlit at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay, no one has touched on this but I think that we (Americans -- though I'm sure other cultures apply) are so hung up on sex that we have difficulty even broaching the topic with the kids. And, though it is a difficult topic to broach and people are uncomfortable with it, there just seems to be no reason in this day and age for kids to be ignorant about birth control, about how to express their desires (no, not yet, too fast, i'm ready for that but not that) and how to manage their strong emotional and romantic feelings. With so much access to porn, kids are getting lots of messages about sex but they seem to be taking away pretty screwed up ideas about how men and women ought to relate to one another.

I don't know that there is an answer for how to teach this to everyone as it comes down to your own values and what your kid is ready for but I think people should think really hard about that time of their lives and what they wish they had known.

Also: personal finance and how to save!
posted by amanda at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]



Seriously. Learning the physiology of childbirth along with sex education is, I think, absolutely vital for women and men. And I wish I learned everything I now know about birth long before I had a child.
posted by zizzle at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

A liberal arts degree is nearly useless for getting a good job right out of school. Oh, how I wish I'd gotten some kind of technical degree.
posted by something something at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

I send anniecat's comment. Being able to get along with people is huge. Being able to work well in a team and have your co-workers/boss like you is such an asset in the workplace. That doesn't mean being a suck-up, but more along the lines of being easy-going and friendly.
posted by shornco at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Everyone should learn to how to treat people serving them. 1-2 years waiting tables or cashiering will do.
posted by valadil at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2010 [20 favorites]

From Sun Tzu's Art of War: Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
posted by nihraguk at 10:18 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

I feel like my parents tried to hammer a lot of things into my head when I was younger, but I was too dumb and cocky at the time and ended up having to learn them myself, e.g. compounding interest, the importance of eating well, dental health, defensive driving, tequila shots, the importance of not being a snotty asshole your whole day. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way, I guess.
posted by Gilbert at 10:21 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

How to change a flat tire
How often to get an oil change
How to fix a leaky tap
How (and how often) to change a furnace filter
How often to thoroughly clean a bathroom/kitchen
How compound interest *really works* on savings and especially on debts (don't let the bank teach them this one)

and, I think most importantly

How to live alone without a romantic relationship and be happy. It makes it much easier to leave a bad relationship.
posted by rocket88 at 10:23 AM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

You don't need permission to do things when you're an adult -- not from your parents, not from your friends, not from your employer. If you want to write a novel or join a club or start a business or move to another country or hike the Alps or DTMFA... it doesn't matter what other people think. Live big. Make it happen.

I wish I'd worked out that I could take initiative and Just Do Stuff so, so much earlier than I did.
posted by Andrhia at 10:23 AM on November 2, 2010 [28 favorites]

I wish someone had taught me more about feelings in general. How to handle emotions and good/positive coping skills. It took me much longer than necessary to learn that my feelings aren't always facts and I don't have to act on them. Watching some of the young people I know today struggle with growing up, I just notice that there is nothing in place to teach young people what to do with fear, anger, loneliness etc. I know it should be the parents job and the schools try to fill in where they can, but I don't remember anyone ever sitting me down and teaching me how to manage all those emotions which come up right around that age.
posted by heatherly at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2010 [14 favorites]

- Sew -- hand stitch on a button, repair a seam, hem a pant; don't have to make things, but learn to repair things
- Press -- How to iron clothing, which heat setting for which fabric
- Wash clothes -- I was amazed when I got to the dorms how many kids had no idea how to properly use a washer and drier
- Nutrition -- food groups or dietary exchanges, balancing a meal, and meals across a day, is critical
- Cooking -- Not fancy cookbook stuff -- broil meat, steam (not boil the hell out of) vegetables, make rice in a rice cooker. I can make a beautiful pie, but I just learned how to broil meat indoors this year
- CPR -- add how to use a defibrillator just in case
- Understanding of local and regional government -- I get a sense that folks never got beyond the 3 branches of government, etc. Local is where people, particularly young people, can have a huge impact and get involved. But young people are the worst at only voting in Presidential elections
- Interviewing skills -- be kind to the receptionist, she might truly be the most important decision maker, seriously show up on time, don't be high/drunk, follow up with a thank you, know what you want to be when you grow up, "Here's my resume, whatcha got?" doesn't work
- Grammar -- people judge you by the words you use. Try to use them correctly all the time, make sure you use them correctly when it counts
posted by Gucky at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

When the interviewer asks you why you left your last job, he or she does not really want to know what bothered you about the personal habits or promotion practices of your incompetent manager. And it matters to other people sometimes if your socks match.
posted by Buffaload at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

How to live with strangers next door to you 5 ft. away in the dorm.

How to move!! Lots of moving done in college. Just started in my third year and have already moved 4 times in the past 2 years...

Learn to ask for help when you seriously need it.
posted by astapasta24 at 10:28 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

The best sex ed/life-skills class I ever took went like this:

Each student received a newspaper. Using that and a little extra information from the teacher we were instructed to imagine that we were living on our own with a baby. Using the newspaper, we had to:

1. Find a job that we were qualified for
2. Find an apartment to live in
3. Use the circulars to estimate child and food expenses
4. Figure out how much childcare would cost

We were only about 14, but the lessons were really clear:
- Children and childcare are crazy expensive
- Low-end service jobs will not pay the bills, especially with a kid
- Get some real job skills and hold off on kids if you don't want to live with your parents

I think avoided making some stupid decisions as a teenager because I knew the exact cost. There was something about doing the math myself that made it really stick.
posted by Alison at 10:29 AM on November 2, 2010 [53 favorites]

Embrace your cultural heritage.

Speaking as an American citizen born in the Philippines, as I grew up, I didn't really understand why my parents forced me to be in a youth group that taught us how to do Filipino dances. I forgot how to speak Tagalog or how to understand my parents' dialect. I didn't have any interest in learning how to cook Filipino dishes. I would be embarrassed if we were out in public with a loud group of Filipino family friends or that my parents had thick accents. "Can't we be more AMERICAN?" I used to think.

It was hard to embrace being a Filipino-American.

Fast forward to my middle-aged years, and I'm suddenly realizing how great it was to BE different. I remember now how my friends who slept over would beg my mom to cook her fried rice with Spam breakfast or ask to come over for dinner because they liked to eat pancit and lumpia. That if I had learned Tagalog, I would be a lot more fluent in Spanish today. That my parents, even with accents, at least spoke three languages fluently, which is more than I can say about 99% of the Americans I know. That my parents took a huge risk to give up everything they knew to move to a country that would allow our family to be educated, work hard, and be successful.

My advice? You're an immigrant? Get over it.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:31 AM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

Getting a dog is not as awesome as it may seem.
I put off getting a dog for 30 years on that assumption. I disagree with this one. I'd phrase it more like:

Bringing home anything that is alive takes a large amount of time and steady commitment over a long period of time. Don't bring home anything that you wouldn't want to spend time and money on for the average length of its lifespan X 1.5. (I don't regret the dog. The 6 year old tortoise that will live to be about 90 is kinda boring now, but will be awful when I'm 100 and trying to find it a home.)
posted by Gucky at 10:32 AM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Oh, another one: Somebody needs to teach people how to properly shake hands. It's not hard! A limp handshake immediately turns me off if I'm meeting someone new.
posted by something something at 10:32 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Before you switch majors to Film, please take this sensitivity test. Otherwise we cannot guarantee safety from complete breakdowns during any random class period."

"Don't wear a suit to a job interview where your future coworkers all wear T-shirts and jeans"

"Don't put on cologne unless someone has requested it, or unless you'll be by yourself all day"

"It's OK to be really, really good at your college job and not so good at your college classes."

"Everybody gets grandiose ideas. The secret is to pull back and do the simplest, bare-bones version as soon as possible."

"You are going to meet a lot of people with very obvious mental disorders. Here are some strategies for not letting it get to you."

"Hire a consultant / coach as soon as you can afford it"
posted by circular at 10:33 AM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Nthing basic nutrition and cooking the basics on a budget. The real basics, like how to cook rice and pasta, make a few simple salads, cook a few basic stews/curries/stir fries, and maybe how to bake a simple cake.
posted by Ahab at 10:35 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wish someone had taught me to drink moderately. Apparently, I was under the impression that you had to either be teetotal (my father's family) or finish the bottle (my mother's).

I also wish someone had whispered into my ear, "Nobody cares. In a good or a bad way." I wasted so much time worrying about what people thought.
posted by BibiRose at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think the biggest things kids need to know at that age is how to handle beginning college, or deciding if it's even right for them.
  • How to study correctly, rather than just reading over the material before tests. A lot of kids get in trouble when they reach college because they apply their high school academic habits to a much more challenging college curriculum. It's a lot like an angler bringing his bass-fishin' rod to catch a sailfish just because he doesn't know how to use a bigger pole.
  • How to practically assess job markets to see if a field is growing, receding, or is impractical and then apply this information to their choice of university and major. There are far too many undergrads wasting a lot of effort and prime years "just getting a degree" or pursuing something completely unmarketable just because they are vaguely interested in the subject. That's fine for someone just interested in a well-rounded education, but if someone is going to college with the intention of getting a better job then they should really know how to do it the right way.
  • That college isn't the only path to success, and it doesn't have to happen right after high school. Plenty of folks do very well for themselves by learning a trade, but for some reason doing so in lieu of college is still seen as a bad decision.
As far as life skills:
  • Basic home and automotive repair.
  • Cooking and basic nutrition.
  • How to network. I think is a big one; kids from wealthy homes are taught this skill from an early age as a matter of course since it's part of their "class language". This is one of those large social issues that puts kids from lower economic classes at a severe disadvantage.
  • How to understand compound interest. Not just know how to calculate it, but how to naturally process the number. I think this would save a lot of kids from falling victim to credit card traps and would encourage saving and investment.

posted by Willie0248 at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I wish I'd been taught the necessity of prioritization: that is, you can max out your waking life with every need coming down the pike, meet all of your obligations, and still not get what you want from life. You have to want what you want, orient yourself to make it happen, and be willing to forego, or fail at, what you deem less valuable. And that that's okay.

Also, that sleep really is important. No amount of coffee will restore your brain like rest will.
posted by swedish_fishy at 10:43 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Have a mechanic look at a used car before you buy it.
Save some money because you will be laid off.
If you have a gut feeling about something you really really know a lot about, buy the stock. ( a single share of Apple, purchased in 1991 for $13.00 is worth about $2700.00 now)
posted by Gungho at 10:43 AM on November 2, 2010

As someone who was a straight-A, overachieving, advanced-placement, etc., etc., (nerd) it was a real shock to suddenly stop getting praise for every damn thing I did. It seems petty in retrospect, but it really did a number on my self-esteem my first year on the job.

In school if you fulfill the requirements of an assignment you get an A - an above average mark that moves you to the top of the class!

In real life if you fulfill the requirements of a task you get to keep your job. Just doing what's required is only enough to keep you from getting fired. And bosses don't give out gold stars.
posted by geekchic at 10:46 AM on November 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

Mostly, I wish I'd learned how to work hard and network. If you're talented but introverted, you can get used to quietly doing your work and receiving abundant praise from your teachers. College is less like that, and work is not at all like that. There are no authority figures watching you and handing out gold stars; you have to prove yourself. (on preview, exactly what geekchic said.)

Other things I wish I'd learned a decade or so earlier:

Bravery is not the same thing as fearlessness. It's okay to be afraid; it's not okay to let your fears control you.

After a certain point, exercise is actually kind of fun.

Compassion is far less stressful than cattiness.

Don't use credit cards except in emergencies. Kate Spade bags are not emergencies.

You will eventually get tired of that Kate Spade bag you just bought.

If you feel the need to "test" a relationship, you've already failed.

Not everyone who pursues you thinks you're especially desirable. Some of them just think you're an easy mark.

Even the things you enjoy and do well can get tedious and difficult from time to time.

You have access to tons of resources and opportunities in high school and especially college, and you probably won't experience that ever again. Take advantage of them.

Dye your hair blue NOW, before you have to work somewhere with a dress code.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:48 AM on November 2, 2010 [31 favorites]

Anger and sarcasm feel very good in the moment -- but like bad food choices, they often require a very long time to work off.

Similarly, procrastination might be easy, but if you actually just do the work you'll not only not have to dread your life/class/realtionship, you might even enjoy it!

Be nice to people by default and life will just be easier and more fun. (In practice, this means taking a job in a service role for a good year or so.)

Once it's on the Internet, it will Never Go Away.

Do the required reading.

(I have discussed this with friends in the past and we've come up with a long list of stuff that every citizen ought to learn: having basic finance, house-keeping, manners, and first aid skills benefit every person and those around them.)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:50 AM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Especially for young girls...Protect your virginity--don't sleep around or be promiscuous in any way.

Don't have sexual relations with anyone you don't ultimately see yourself being married to. I believe the very act of intercourse changes the way our minds work--and many women don't understand that they bond with a man emotionally when they have sex.

Sex is not a sport and abusing this will undermine your whole life.
posted by AuntieRuth at 10:50 AM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

How to grocery shop economically. Basic kitchen skills, and the ability to take the cheap ingredients you just bought at the supermarket and turn them into tasty and nutritious food.

I would also say "don't go into credit card debt in college", but I was told that and STILL got lured in.

Do all that stuff your parents warn you not to do now, while you're still young. Dye your hair purple, get dreads, wear a nose ring, eat ice cream for breakfast, sleep till 3 in the afternoon, drop out of life and backpack around another continent, tend bar for a living. You have a window of time, between the ages of around 17 and 30, when you get to do that sort of thing and people think it's cute. Enjoy it!

I wholeheartedly DISAGREE with everything AuntieRuth said, and would offer the counter-advice that your body belongs to you, and only you. Sex is not dirty or wrong and it ultimately doesn't matter very much whether people think you're a "slut" or a "prude" or whatever. Having sex will not undermine your whole life if you keep yourself informed and use safer sex techniques.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on November 2, 2010 [30 favorites]

It's OK to fail. You only succeed by passing though failures.

There is nothing special about "these days". The world has been in crisis since the dawn of civilization and will continue to be throughout your life and for millennia after your die.

Your generation did not invent sex or rebellion.

Probabilistically speaking, everyone is as fucked up as you are. Don't sweat it.

The struggle never ends. It's not supposed to. Joy only comes in fleeting moments. But there's always one such moment somewhere ahead.
posted by dzot at 11:01 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Take really good care of your teeth. I feel like they're the first thing that seems to be deteriorating as I get older.
posted by smirkyfodder at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'm thinking of things that I still, as a thirtysomething, call my parents to ask about, or called them about in my twenties:
* How to make that favorite dish your mom/dad/grandmother makes
* How to do basic home repairs (unclog a toilet, stop a running toilet, fix a hole in the wall)
* Basic etiquette (what to wear to special occasions, who pays for what when, etc.)
* How to write a resume
* How to break a lease, or negotiate some other contract
* When to call a professional, be it lawyer, plumber, tree removal guy
* What color snot means you need to see the doctor
posted by 100watts at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

How to have healthy relationships --with co-workers, friends, family, significant others, and most importantly myself.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:05 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

A couple things that took me a long time to learn:

1. Turns out soft skills are the most important thing in human society. I don't care how smart your or how technically correct you are, if you can't convey this information following the proper rules of etiquette, learn how to smile at the proper times, use humor, manage expectations, make proper smalltalk, learn to take interest in others, deal with irrationality & banality, etc then its pretty much useless. Technically minded people especially need to learn these social skills. An idiot with great social skills can get very, very far. A genius with poor social skills might get nowhere.

2. Common fallacies, "common sense," common misconceptions, lazy thinking, etc are wrong but most people think this way but those who understand these flaws have a great advantage in life. I especially cannot tolerate appeals to the past "Kids today..." or "Back when the US was strong..." or any confirmation bias.

3. Ideas are worthless. Its the self-starting implementers and other overly-driven nuts who turn them into value. If you can't make a working prototype of something in your head then it doesn't exist. Turns out doing stuff is hard even if your fantasizing makes it look easy. This also ties in with "it easy to criticize the 'doers' because to the 'thinkers' they'll never be as good as the ideal."

4. Turns out all thrills, happiness, etc are temporary. Everything is like a drug, thats how our brains are built. At first its great then you develop a tolerance. Then you need it to just get by. This applies to relationships, consumer goods, intellectual pursuits, etc. Turns out happiness is hard work and a process of constantly finding the next thing that makes you smile. Good moods take a lot of work - good sleep, good diet, positive thinking, stress management, lots of downtime, luck, genetics, etc.

5. Not being able to retire seems like the most horrible thing ever. Think about working well into your 70s at Walmart or somesuch when you decide on your savings and retirement strategies.

6. Pets are more expensive than you think.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2010 [42 favorites]

All of them.

I think the two biggies are self-defense and accomplishing your own goals, though.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 AM on November 2, 2010

True sex education, wherein you learn not only about biology, but mechanics, pleasure, communication, and respect, both for yourself and your partner(s).

Money management. What is credit? Why do you need to protect it? Why should you avoid certain credit cards, and what does it mean if you miss a payment? What does it mean to carry a balance? How can you budget? What are student loans, and to what extent will they ruin your life?

How to be assertive. Communication skills in general. Learning how to advocate for what you need and identify when you are not doing something right. Self-confidence and self-respect tempered by true humility.

Basic automotive and household repair.
posted by patronuscharms at 11:16 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm also going to counter all the folks who are saying "nobody is going to give you a gold star in THE REAL WORLD" to say that, no, adult life isn't really that bad. And, yes, you will have the proverbial "boss that hands out gold stars". Being good at your job is possible, and will feel rewarding in a way that getting an A on a test never did. In a good work environment, you will feel appreciated.

It's just that, well, it's different. You're not going to be praised as much, and the rewards aren't as obvious. Your boss doesn't literally hand out gold stars, but yes, she or he will tell you when your work has been especially good. Also, a large part of knowing you did a good job is giving yourself that praise. There is no better feeling, in my opinion, than confidence in a job well done. But it doesn't come from other people, it comes from within. It also will come from feeling like you are a part of the team, rather than better than everybody else. That "I got a 98 and set the curve, while the other poor losers only got 92's and 93's" sensibility? That's what disappears.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Slightly meta, but I wish I learned to forget advice about things I wasn't facing. Life isn't an exam, you don't need to study for it, know all the answers in advance and get all A's. Advice encourages people to live up to externally imposed standards of obedience - the gentle, benevolent standards are the worst because their fake respect for your individuality is an iron fist in a velvet glove. The main thing is to figure out as quickly as possible is that most people know a lot less than both you and they think, and the people who do know something can't teach it to you.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:24 AM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

Table manners - my folks covered the basics, but I had to read up on the niceties when I became a business professional. So, I'd say kids should be taught how to behave politely at a meal, at the very least.

Not so much which fork to use, though there's that - but how to sit on a seat (and I mean both one's posterior as well as the furniture provided) facing forward at a table, hopefully without constant movement; and how to move the food (whether it's delicious or something that needs to be dealt with politely) from the plate or container to one's mouth in a mannerly and neat fashion (either with utensils or without) - and for it to proceed to the stomach from there, and only the stomach, and preferably behind closed lips; and to do that within the given eating time, perhaps with some light conversation - but certainly without grand hand gestures and raised voices or trips to use facilities or any uproarious behaviour; and then how to clean up (or help clean up) or sit quietly and appreciate being cleaned up after, at the meal's finish.

Yes, I'm a parent and a lunchroom supervisor in an elementary school, and it's obvious at six whose parents are working on it, and at sixteen whose parents never even tried. It may sound terribly judgy, and I do apologize for clutching my pearls - but as an adult I know all about first impressions, and how everything from business deals to dates are conducted over meals, and I think understanding how to get through a meal without offending innocent bystanders is a huge part of being a functioning and successful grown-up.
posted by peagood at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

To think critically about what commercials, politicians, the media and the entertainment industry are telling you. And that just because someone is an authority figure, it doesn't mean that they are right.

Never quit or fail to even try something because you don't think you have the innate ability or the talent to rock it. Truly, it all comes down to perserverance.
posted by kitcat at 11:29 AM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh, another one: Somebody needs to teach people how to properly shake hands. It's not hard! A limp handshake immediately turns me off if I'm meeting someone new.

nth-ing this. I recently volunteered for a job prep course at a local vocational school. One thing the principal insisted on from all his students was a firm handshake and eye contact. It was amazing how those 2 things could counter all sort of other 'negative' first impressions based on appearance, posing, attitudes, etc.

The course I helped with was put on by the boys and girls club, and was great. Covered all sorts of things from what interviewers are really looking for with certain questions and how to phrase your answers so they had meaningful examples, etc. to being conscious of what sort of impression someone gets from your email addresses, or from your online profiles, pics, etc. We crafted resumes, cover letters and the students participated in a pretend job interview (with one winning the job and a gift cert. )
posted by snowymorninblues at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2010

A good habit for a teen to learn (just as they're getting their first jobs) is to put away 10% of your money for retirement every time you get paid - and don't touch it!

I too disagree with AuntieRuth's comments regarding "virginity" and "promiscuity." My parents taught me about sex by saying, "Don't do it," and I think it would be better to have a more reality-based approach.

I loved Allison's comment above about learning the math of becoming a teen parent. That, plus a frank discussion about STDs ought to shape healthier habits than waiting until marriage... but that's just my opinion!

Also: drug use/head injuries from sports. Nothing scared me more than learning that some chemical drugs/bumps on the head forever alter your brain and you can never recover from the effects.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:33 AM on November 2, 2010

Also, hold on to your friends. You may have lots of them now, but keep the good people and treat them well. Life can get pretty lonely as you get older.

For the same reason, treat your family well and deepen your relationships with them.

Send thank you cards.

When an apology or a thanks are due, don't procrastinate. You will suffer guult and shame if you never give them.
posted by kitcat at 11:35 AM on November 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

Always pee after sex.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:35 AM on November 2, 2010 [16 favorites]

Nth-ing table manners. I used to laugh when my dad was so strict about teaching proper table manners, but now that business meals are a large part of my job, I thank him every time I see him. It is so difficult to take someone seriously who has bad table manners - and not just "which fork to use" but "wait until everyone is served to start eating" and "act somewhat reluctant to take the last piece off a communal plate - take it if you want it - but at least offer to someone else."

Also, that in reality, hard work and being good at your job is not enough for you to keep it. You can get fired even though you are smart, good at what you do, and well liked, so be prepared. This was a REAL blow to me the first time it happened.

And finally, keep all of your user manuals. Read them. Use them. They will teach you how to change your tail light in under 3 minutes and how to properly insert the hose hook-up into your vacuum and the super-awesome shortcut button for making perfect popcorn. Reading user manuals made me resourceful and independent and feel really good about being a girl who taught herself how to change her windshield wiper blades and who can fix just about anything that malfunctions in my house.
posted by buzzkillington at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

How to dance and not look/feel stupid.

I was reminded of this because I'm listening to Deee-Lite and everything I know I learned from the Groove is in the Heart video.
posted by oreofuchi at 11:56 AM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

I really wish kids were taught to evaluate their own efforts. People will judge you inaccurately, in both unfairly positive and unfairly negative directions - so it's important to be able to add your own self-diagnosis/self-evaluation to that equation.

I understand why we want kids to see value in academic or workplace evaluations, but there really are way too many adults out there who desperately want the approval/disapproval of others, when it's not nearly as necessary as they think.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

If your college GPA is south of 3.0 and you're taking student loans, it isn't your time to be in college. Come back when you can succeed.

This is especially important if you're not going to a school anyone would consider competitive.
posted by phoebus at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

How and when to upgrade relationships with friends and potential partners and when to let them go.

{6th grade:} Cute girl C flirts and teases me during Home Ec and recess. What now?!? {8th grade:} Best female friend B just met a guy and JUST now I realize I like her as more than a friend. {8th to 11th grade:} There must be some formula to convince B that I'm the right guy! {High school:} I should have been comforting (B's friend) A about her ex instead of just going to that movie with her and putting my arm around her. How strange that I forgot. {Through college:} Garsh that girl two rows in front of me is beautiful and smart, too bad I don't have any reason to talk to her... {After college:} Wow. I gave Woman X my number, why doesn't she call me? {First girlfriend:} You're looking for a new apartment? I know we just broke up and got back together, but what if we looked together?! {Online dating:} Hey, I know that I've been getting yellow-to-red signals and just polite signals on dates one and two, but could you at least please not be a wuss and either give a green signal or tell me to kindly blow off? {Present day:} Best female friend Y and I had an amazing romance that ended due to circumstance. Now what?

Self-deprecating stories aside, some of the themes/ big questions are: how not to be wishy washy, how to be brave and how to inspire others to be brave and not wishy washy with you. Failing that, how to tune your radar to find And engage people who are ready to take similar risks.
posted by Skwirl at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2010

Touch typing.

Maybe that's a little more down-to-earth than a lot of the other suggestions here, but I stand by it. I was required to take a touch-typing class first quarter of my freshman year in high school, and to this day (20+ years later) I will tell anyone who will listen that it was the most valuable class I took in high school. I can't think of anything else I learned in high school (or grade school or college or grad school) that I use 360+ days a year.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:30 PM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

Also, don't major in something you're good at with minimal effort unless it's something that's in demand. Not being excellent at calculus without a lot of effort doesn't mean you shouldn't take a hard math class. Feeling like Physics is too hard doesn't mean you should just say, "I'm not a physics person" and drop the course and take something easier for you. Recognize when "it's too hard/I'm not a physics person" is just an excuse not to have to put in the effort. Don't be lazy.

When transitioning from college to the workplace, don't measure yourself against how your peers are doing. You may not rise from entry level to VP in three months. Learn what reality is. You will probably never be CEO unless you start your own company. You may never rise through the ranks even though you seemed destined for superstardom in your head or in your parents' and teachers' outlooks.
posted by anniecat at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'm probably too young to be giving this advice, but disregarding that:

- Never feel self-pity. It is a destructive emotion that doesn't help at all. Don't feel sorry for yourself and always do what you know you should be doing.

- Don't try to bend friends to your opinions, your ways and your ideas. Either it won't work, or you won't like the outcome.

- The first draft of anything is always shit ~ Hemingway. This is true in everything - ideas, art pieces, articles, projects, anything. If it doesn't work the first time, you're doing it right.

- That commercials, movies, TV and all mainstream pop culture is lying to you. Don't isolate yourself from them, but realise that life isn't perfect, doesn't make any sense and doesn't have convenient characters. It's very real, it's very imperfect and it's dynamic. It can turn from a Disney animation to a torture horror film any moment. Not to say that life is hell or anything, but don't expect it to make any sense or have an innate narrative like a film or a book.

- Be frugal with yourself. You don't need half the food that you normally eat. A lot of your money goes wasted like this and you don't realise it. Use the money more productively - treat your friends, lend it to someone in need, buy a gift for someone. Even if you don't do that, save your money for later - the future you will appreciate it, and you won't miss the McDonald's burger as much as you think.

- If you want to be a non-conformist, first learn to be a conformist. When you realise that your anti-consumerist and poetical revolution won't work, you won't have as hard a time settling into everyday life.

- Sex is neither an obligation, nor a product. You don't get a medal for losing your virginity and you won't get a Nobel for your performance in bed. Don't fall for the pop culture height - have sex because you want to, not because you need to.

- Bottle up your anger. No, expressing your anger only makes you addicted to doing that when you are angry. Learn to meditate, think clearly in stressful situations and evacuating yourself when things get rough. Put your mind somewhere else. Don't take out your frustrations on anyone, because your period of anger will come and go - their impression of you won't.

- People are stupid, so are you.

- Don't get into fights. Sure it looks badass, but being cut, coma'ed, disabled, decapitated, dismembered, burned or sexually assaulted is not very badass in the long run. Unless you've lived a life of crime on the streets, you are terrible at fighting regardless of how good you were in boxing or bullying.
posted by Senza Volto at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I may be biased because I work in an academic library, where information literacy is pretty high on the list of priorities, but I think teaching teens how to evaluate information sources is hugely important. This goes hand in hand with what kitcat said. Critical thinking and research skills are never wasted, no matter where you end up as an adult.
posted by ashirys at 12:46 PM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

1) Some of the statements about the world that adults try the hardest to hammer into you are total bullshit. They do not know jack about jack. These are simply toxic beliefs that they've internalized for whatever twisted psychological reasons and that they need other people to validate. The best way for them to do this is to get hold of an impressionable young person. That's you!

When an adult tells you anything about love, or work, or what people are like, look hard at the adult in question. Are they fulfilled? Are they trustworthy? Are they kind? If not, their pronouncements about the world are probably at least partly bullshit emanating from their own baggage.

2) Bad art is an important part of a well-rounded education.

3) Make peace with your body. Punishing it for not looking or performing the way you want is not going to help matters.
posted by stuck on an island at 12:48 PM on November 2, 2010 [24 favorites]

All you really have is your reputation, everything else can be lost, taken away, or become outdated. Principles matter, stand on them no matter what.
posted by KneeDeep at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

That tall men in suits are neither more important than I am, nor are their ideas better.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:53 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

That expertise comes only with practice and time. A boatload of information does not an expert make.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:27 PM on November 2, 2010

Basic physical skills - how to use your body effectively. I suffered through years of gym classes - being one of those really clutzy kids - but never got anything out of it. I realized how little I know how to use my own body watching my boyfriend rake leaves, and seeing how much more effectively he did it. I started watching him do other stuff, and realized I just do not know about how to best lift things, how to run without hurting something, all kinds of things like that. I thought as a kid I couldn't do pullups or climb rope just because I was a clutz and not very strong. It might be true, but I think it's that no one tried to teach me how.

I know one woman who hurt her head falling backwards when she overbalanced throwing a bowling ball, and one who broke her jaw falling on the ice because she didn't know how to fall, so I don't think I'm the only one who managed to miss this in school.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wish someone had told me about the emotional side of sex. Teens feel incredibly strong attractions, and mind-blowingly intense pleasures, and think, "wow, I must be In Love." Then they bend their lives all out of shape trying to defend a relationship that's based only on hormones and affection.
posted by Corvid at 1:43 PM on November 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

this and this, and a thousand times this.

A last one: do ask people out when you're interested. They are as much afraid to ask you as you are to ask them. Even when it does not work, the askee will be impressed with your courage; and it will build up your experience for the next time.
posted by knz at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Oh, and another vaguely work/school related thing. How this didn't make my original post I have no idea, because it's something I think a lot about. Unlike debt and whether bosses give gold stars.

Major in whatever the fuck you want. Seriously. If you are genuinely interested in something at 13, 15, 18, STUDY THAT. Don't let people tell you you'll never find work in that field or otherwise bully you into abandoning your dreams. Don't major in education because it's "practical" when you really would rather be studying design or sociology or something "silly" like that. If you do that, you will face two important hurdles:

1. It will be a lot more difficult for you to succeed studying something that doesn't interest you. It's a lot better to be an A student in film than a C student in business. Even if you are destined to fail at making movies and end up working in corporate America or becoming an entrepreneur.

2. Your average high school teacher or middle class parent in Idaho or wherever has no IDEA what kinds of jobs are really out there and how easy or difficult it is to get one. It really sucks to be told "you'll never get a job as an artist; why not go to nursing school instead?" and then look over at all the people who did go to art school and now make perfectly decent money as designers, illustrators, and art directors. There is a HUGE gap between "be Picasso" and "mop floors for a living because we all know you have no shot at being Picasso". You can probably make a living somewhere in that gap.
posted by Sara C. at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

Filing skills and taxes. What to keep and what to save. I'm absolutely terrible at this and wish I'd had better habits inured at an early age. Some teens may be working, so you could even have them sit down and fill out a basic 1040.
posted by maryr at 2:57 PM on November 2, 2010

I like what Senza Volto says. Also:

Treasure and look after the people you love. Don't waste time on those who mistreat you.

You don't always have to tell the whole truth.

Perfectionism is all very well at work, but it is death to relationships: everyone is flawed.
posted by londongeezer at 3:55 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it's OK to quit--a job that's making you miserable, a class that you're not learning anything in, a relationship that isn't going to work, etc. I think teens and kids get too much "never give up!" and "if at first you don't succeed, try again"... at least I did, and it's taken years to get over it.
posted by equivocator at 4:04 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Childcare skills. If you don't plan on having kids, learning about childcare will make you extra careful with the birth control. If you do, you're better off learning about it well in advance, so that you can make informed decisions regarding how much time you'll need off work, how much money you'll have to save, how emotionally mature you'll need to be.

So many of my friends got knocked up knowing nothing about babies but how cute they are, and only really got a sense of the hard work during their prenatal classes. I imagine that less well-off people don't do prenatal classes at all, and end up winging it.

Added bonus: teenagers who know basic childcare skills can babysit more safely, and more enjoyably.
posted by lollusc at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the most important lesson a young person can learn is that It Gets Better. If you feel weird, awkward, that you don't fit in -- Hang in there -- it does get better. Life is not like junior high or high school. You will find your niche. You will be happy. No matter how bad you feel today, it is totally worth sticking around to see tomorrow!

And, a less version :) -- things change. Bad things go away. Sometimes good things go away too, but then other good things come along. What you're feeling today is not going to last forever.
posted by elmay at 4:28 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

That would be "less strong version" (no bolded text :)).
posted by elmay at 4:28 PM on November 2, 2010

That it's a lot easier to do the right thing the first time 'round (if you know what needs to be done) / take preventive action, than to undo a mistake or perform damage control after the fact.

So many examples of this... Many, for me at least, have to do with procrastination and putting off something unpleasant but inevitable, only to find that the consequences are a much bigger pain to deal with than the original thing. E.g., regularly backing up your hard drive VS desperately trying to figure out how to salvage your drive that's gone kaput. Or reaching out to a possible job contact in a timely manner VS finally contacting them 2 months later only to find the position has just been filled. Or eating healthy and exercising VS having to take daily pills to lower your blood pressure. OR using a condom VS ... you get the picture.

I'm still learning how to get into the habit of dealing with issues promptly as they arise, rather than looking the other way and hoping the issue will somehow take care of itself on its own.
posted by amillionbillion at 5:04 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two things:
  • It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do.
  • You will achieve more if you are a hard worker but a little dumb, compared to if you are a smart person but unmotivated. The world belongs to the smart hard workers.

posted by Simon Barclay at 5:58 PM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

elmay said Life is not like junior high or high school.

This is so incredibly true and useful to know. I'll always remember the first (and last) time in university that I aksed myself "I wonder if this person was cool/popular in high school?" and then realized that it didn't matter and I didn't care. It was incredibly liberating.

Unfortunately, good luck getting a high schooler to realize this while in high school.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:02 PM on November 2, 2010

An especially hard lesson for the A students out there: Sometimes it's far better to be kind than to be right.
posted by mozhet at 6:28 PM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Critical thinking and cognitive biases.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:51 PM on November 2, 2010

Here's something that my mom told me when I was younger that I also learned the hard way my freshman year of college: throwing up after drinking *sucks*.
posted by radioamy at 6:53 PM on November 2, 2010

How to brush your teeth effectively. Seriously, NOBODY taught me. My schools didn't, my parents didn't, magazines and newspapers didn't, even my damn dentists and dental hygienists didn't. Now, with a mouth full of filled cavities, I find out that there is a RIGHT way to brush teeth.

If you're going to wear a mouth guard at night to prevent teeth grinding, get a soft one, not a hard one, and the sooner in life, the better.

If your dentist is always happy to see you when you come in for a cleaning, always finds cavities, and always does nothing more than fill them and send you on your way, find a better dentist.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:06 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is something more important than grades, SAT/GRE scores, mastery of a discipline, even success and wealth. That is: You life with other people. Learn how.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:09 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

When things are hard, that doesn't mean it's time to quit - it means it's time to ask for help. If your help tells you it's time to quit, look for new help.
posted by Drama Penguin at 11:56 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wish my parents had stressed how important it was to be liked by everybody

In some previous anonymous AskMe, an adult woman described spending an hour trying to explain politely that she really didn't want sex, after which she gave up and had sex anyway. It is not THAT important to be liked by everybody.

Somehow this woman's parents failed to communicate to her that standing up for yourself can be more important.
posted by emilyw at 1:03 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't start smoking. Hands down, the worst decision I've ever made.

The anti-smoking lectures in school tended to focus on long-term health problems, which, while obviously being the reason you shouldn't smoke, just seemed so far removed from me and my adolescent smoking habits. It's not like I was going to get emphysema just from sneaking the occasional cigarette in eighth grade, right?

No, but here I am, twelve years later, paying $13/day for the privilege of smelling bad and getting winded going up stairs, struggling to quit for the umpteenth time. Everyone knows that "cigarettes are addictive" but I wish I had known what that really meant before I started smoking.
posted by cosmic osmo at 1:48 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

The importance of charity.
posted by snowjoe at 7:45 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wash your car at least every week or two. Clean cars are less attractive to cops (looking for somebody to stop). You don't have to get out there with the hose and expensive cleaning formula, just pay the extra $3 at the gas station every couple weeks to drive through the touch-free.

On that note, keep your tags and insurance current and if anybody ever tells you you have a light out, go to the auto parts store and replace it *today*.

Getting pulled over and hassled, searched and maybe even arrested and impounded is no way to start the day.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:48 AM on November 3, 2010

Oh, knz, I agree: if there's someone you're interested in, GO FOR IT. I waited all through high school and halfway through college before asking out a particular girl, and then I moved out of the country for a college abroad program two days after we went on the date I should have had years before. I am not one to ponder what-is, and my marriage is the fulcrum of my life, but back then I would have run off with her in a minute. :7)

One other thing: manners don't exist for their own sake, they are "social lubricant" that allow strangers to interact with a known set of expectations. It allows everyone to be more at ease and to be comfortable when you have some minimal boundaries at the outset. Truly charming people use their manners to make others more relaxed and less anxious.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

2. Your average high school teacher or middle class parent in Idaho or wherever has no IDEA what kinds of jobs are really out there and how easy or difficult it is to get one. It really sucks to be told "you'll never get a job as an artist; why not go to nursing school instead?" and then look over at all the people who did go to art school and now make perfectly decent money as designers, illustrators, and art directors. There is a HUGE gap between "be Picasso" and "mop floors for a living because we all know you have no shot at being Picasso". You can probably make a living somewhere in that gap.

This. I wasted 3 years and 75k at schools bc my parents wanted me to get a more "general" degree. Now I make a decent living doing what I wanted to from the start.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Three things:

1. Credit, and how hard it is to pay back when you're living paycheck to paycheck already.

2. There are two types of successful people; those who always succeed, and the majority.

The majority of successful people fail all the time, but instead of being crushed by those failures, they learn from them and move forward. "Continuing undaunted by past failures" might be the #1 defining trait of the majority of successful folks.

3. Other people are important, too.

I think I already had #3 under control before I was an adult, but I think the world would be a notably more awesome place if everyone believed in that fully. Shitty jobs seem to push people one way or another on this belief; either you gain empathy for people (your coworkers, especially) or lose empathy for the human race (your customers, usually).
posted by talldean at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

This may sound kind of strange, but I wish everyone had a mild chronic disease (with no long term damage) for 1-2 years when growing up.

Having some experience with illness early on shatters the illusion that your body is under your control, and teaches you that taking care of yourself is work with serious consequences if you don't take your meds/treatment/therapy. It's tragic to see people get bent out of shape in their 40's and 50's when they get their first serious illness after a lifetime of perfect health. It also teaches you perspective -- it really is true that if you don't have your health, nothing else matters.
posted by benzenedream at 6:31 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Internet/email etiquette.

How to use an index in a book.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2010

I think you might not want your kids to get CBA (can't be arsed) syndrome.
I read this story yesterday. It seems super relevant today. I am currently seeing this pattern with my co-workers older teenage & college level kids.

And incase this was not mentioned earlier: encourage your kids to do laundry, general housework & how to cook. A summer job overseas. This was when I really grew up & decided I was NEVER going to be a minimum wage earner, if I could help it.
posted by sequin at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2010

First Aid. I have no idea why we don't make it a requirement for graduation for all high schoolers.
posted by agregoli at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking a lot about this very topic lately. I've been a non-traditional undergraduate student for more than 5 years and now that I've stumbled upon what I'd like to do when I grow up (go to grad school, research and learn more, eventually teach), I'm looking back over the years both before and since I embarked on my academic journey and thinking, "Why haven't I done more? Why are my work habits so off and on? Why have I been so incapable of handling stress?" There are, of course, a number of correct answers, not the least of which include the fact that I have always had a poor support network and, more often than not, no one (nope, not even family) who has said to me, "Good job! I'm so proud of you!" Hearing those things are important at any age.

That said, I wish I had been taught that what I did mattered. I wish those things I did well were recognized, praised, and encouraged. I wish that I had been taught the value of doing all that I do well. I wish I had been taught to expect the best of and for myself.

Aside from that, I'm seconding personal finance, knowing how to give a good handshake, and what anniecat wrote, many times over.
posted by katherant at 11:56 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

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